Leif Ericson (970s - 1020) was a Norse explorer which is today remembered as the first European who discovered North American continent, se this foot on it and established first settlement somewhere on modern day Newfoundland. Even though his exploits happened one thousand years ago, songs (Norse Sagas) and other historical documents enable us to recreate the most important events of his life.
Leif was born around 870-880 in Breiðafjörður region, Iceland, as a son of famous explorer Eric the Red who was during that time exiled from Norway and settled in Iceland. During the early childhood of Lief, his father Eric the Red went westward toward the mysterious land that was discovered previously by GunnbjörnUlfsson and SnaebjörnGalti. His attempt to explore this land did not went disastrously as first two, and Eric the Red managed to establish permanent Viking colony on northwestern coast of Greenland, place that would become very important in the history of Norse people.
In 999 Lief, now grown up and accustomed to the ways of the sea traveled from Greenland to Norway, where he made his connection with the norse King Olaf Tryggvason and was converted to Christianity. Upon returning to Greenland, he continued to spread Christianity and making several journey to the sea. These journeys will ensure that he will become forever remembered in our history.
There are few secondary reports of his journey and discovery of North American continent, and many archeological proofs of several Viking settlements in Canada. In the Saga of the Greenlanders, Leif heard about a Viking merchant ship that was blown of course and encountered strange lands. He immediately formed a mission to test the claims of merchants, and managed to land in North America on desolate place he named Helluland (Flat-Rock Land). Modern historians think that this place was possibly somewhere on the Baffin Island, largest off the coast of Canada. He continued southward, reaching Markland (Forest Land) on Labrador, and eventually settling down in Vinland (Wineland). There he build a small settlement called Leifsbúdir (Leif's Booths), wintered, and returned home bringing good news. It was believed that he made several more journeys to Vinland, but there are no proofs of how many.
Even though Leif Ericson encouraged his fellow Norse to permanently settle Vinland, no serious effort was made. Local population and Vikings entered into permanent hostile relationship from the moment Leif arrived, and in the following two centuries Norse visited Markland only to collect large amounts of wood.
Today Leif Ericsson is today accepted as a first European man who discovered North America, with even young Christopher Columbus confirming in his letters that he heard from the local Icelandic population the tales of the “lands in the west” which were discovered by their ancestors.
|Place of Birth||probably Iceland|
|Place of Death||probably Greenland|
|Nationality||Norse/Icelandic (Norwegian descent)|
|Religion||Norse paganism; converted to Christianity c. 999|
|Known For||Discovering Vinland (Part of North America; possibly Newfoundland)|
|Parent(s)||Erik the Red, Þjóðhildur|
|Relative(s)||Thorvald, Thorstein, Freydís|
|Monuments||St. Paul, Minesota|